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BREAKING: Delta is changing Medallion Gate Upgrades for the better & possible fix for C+ upgrades in Fly Delta App!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

no more teamboardlast for delta air lines upgrade will be at t40 even if you board

Sometimes good things come to those who gripe. At the grand opening of the Delta B Sky Club I planned ahead and thought of the one thing I could ask the CEO of the airline that he would maybe fix. I know there is an endless list but the one thing I asked about was something that to me, as an elite Delta Medallion flyer, bugs me to no end – that is, the current state of gate upgrades.

You see, I have for years promoted the idea of what I call #TeamBoardLast – that is, being the last flyer onboard the aircraft because there are many, MANY times that someone who is checked-in to first class does not make the flight. If you wait and are NOT number one on the upgrade list you will be, even as a Silver Medallion, if all the other elites have given up and boarded. The result is YOU get that last (now) open seat.

Now what can also possibly happen, and the policy a while ago was changed to this, is that if a gate agent (GA) has enough time they may, at their discretion, come onboard the aircraft and take someone who was #1 (and so on) on the list from their coach seat and offer them the open 1st class seat. You may have seen this or even had this happen to you. But again this many times does not happen due to time. This may be about to change.

I have learned that on 4APRIL17 things will be different. I reached out to Delta to confirm my information from a source at Delta and was told by a Delta Corp rep the following:

“Delta regularly tests various programs and processes in the operation to continue elevating the customer experience. One of these tests has involved clearing upgrades 40 minutes from departure instead of 30 minutes from departure, in an effort to provide more Medallion Members with the Complimentary Upgrades they are eligible for, while still departing on time. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive as we gradually expand the program beyond the initial test.” – Kate Modolo Delta Air Lines

Interesting. I was further told from my source that gate agents will start communicating with flight attendants regarding onboard upgrades during their initial briefing when the crew arrives at the gate, and then again before closing the door.

What this should mean is much less upgrade shenanigans and more chances for those who are worried about overhead space to board and still retain their place on the upgrade list that was in place when boarding began. We should see many more GAs and FAs pulling elites from in back and handing them the “golden ticket” if you will to a 1st class seat.

Lastly I was told by my source that this change specifically cited consistent Medallion feedback and the service failure that inconsistency in the current system causes. I hope this is more than just a test and is a permanent change and that all the Delta people follow this and not just now and then. Consistency is what is needed. Also, having been handed one of these onboard upgrades, I have to admit it is really fun to watch those around you when you do the reverse walk of shame to 1st class – it really is a sweet feeling! 😉

So does this end the practice of #TeamBoardLast? I think mostly but not always. Even with all these changes when a GA is stressed and things are crazy and the time to push is getting closer things don’t always go perfectly and it could still be the last elite standing will score that last open seat. Let’s see how well the test works before we call #TeamBoardLast dead and buried!

Screenshot of the Fly Delta App

Next up we have possible news on changes on the way to the Fly Delta App. The same source that leaked the info about the upgrade changes also told me that very soon Delta will push an update to allow elites to in the APP “downgrade” their Comfort+ or C+ seat to a normal or C- seat.

This is such great news as many times as elites we are forced into a middle C+ seat or for whatever reason the Delta IT blocks us from a real 1st class upgrade when we are already “upgraded” to a C+ seat. What you must do in this case is call Delta reps and have then downgrade you to the seat you want. To be able to do this inside the Fly Delta App would be an amazing improvement.

However, Delta Corp reps would not confirm this change is on the way but I think we will see it soon. They must, as we saw in my list of gripes this past weekend, fight against the plucky Alaska Airlines that does not EVER upgrade an elite to a middle seat C+. If I get word from any other of my Delta contacts to confirm this change is on the way and when we may see it I will update this post.

Lastly on this topic, it does in a way show what a #FAIL C+ “upgrades” can be because if an elite would choose to downgrade why in the world would ANYONE pay to upgrade to one of these seats for money.

So what do you think of the new upgrade news. Are you pleased with these changes? Let me know in the comments below! – René

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. love both updates

    would also love to see offline version of app. Ridiculous to have to re log-in if I open app without internet…Worse if you need to pull up a boarding pass or something

  2. AA does onboard upgrades. It is a little bit of a hassle to move carry on and backpack but probably a wash with the hassle of #teamboardlast. So I view this change as positive for medallions who need every upgrade their status entitles them to and for DL who will make elites happier.

    I always prefer an exit row seat to C+ on DL or Main Cabin Extra on AA. The nice thing about AA is that top tier elites get free drinks and sandwiches wherever they sit in economy. AA has copied DL on plenty of things. I’d like to see DL copy AA on this.

  3. None of this matters to me. Ill take a C+ middle over a seat in the back with less legroom.

    Also … big deal on the upgrades. This doesn’t seem like much at all. I am Platinum and only clear on Regional Jets, Today form Raleigh to Atlanta I was #22 of 41 so I really don’t ever have to check the list. Here is how too fix upgrades:

    1. STOP giving away free MQM and MQD waivers for Credit Card holders.
    2. STOP selling TOD upgrades over Plat/Diamonds on the list. Sell the upgrades beforehand but once 24 hours hits, allow your Medallion program to pay out is benefits….to those who SPEND and FLY on DELTA, not on their credit card. Right now everyone is elite… I’m at 13,000MQD this year and someone with 2,000 can actually trump me on an upgrade list…MESSED up!

    • @Ryan – Happy you can enjoy the middle seat C+. I will take any aisle seat any day over that. Good for both of us we are both winning. Next, you need to understand that AMEX and AMEX points are the most valuable and profitable thing Delta has. WAY more than what you spend. I am talking Billions with a B if you look at the Q reports and listen to the $DAL reports (I do every time). Those who spend most and hold AMEX get the most perks and that is correct just look at how many perks those who spend 25k per year get. You too can play along and make DM if you want to. Happy to help! 😉

  4. Ronaldusmagnus Reply

    I keep getting the dreaded “upgrade to middle EC”. Even happened on LAX to NY where it was to a middle MIDDLE seat on a wide body. In what universe is that considered an upgrade? Being able to use the app to “downgrade” to a main aisle or exit would be much appreciated.

  5. I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic here, Rene. What does clearing gate upgrades at 40 minutes have to do with #teamboardlast? If a checked in first class pax is a no-show at 15 minutes, what does this new procedure accomplish? As reported, it doesn’t seem to address who gets that seat – a Medallion 1st on the list waiting at the gate or someone formerly higher on the list already in their seat. It does appear to help make sure seats don’t go empty while there are Medallions seated in Coach but no one left to board… for sure a good thing regardless.

    • @DCJono – Let me make this simple – it is about TIME! The extra 10 minutes should, with coordination with GA+FAs, make it so the elite at #1 is pulled from back. Now also as mentioned, there will be times when TIME is against them, and then the old rule of TeamBoardLast will win but in theory is should be the exception vs more the rule as it stands right now. Time will tell if this helps, hurts, works, does not work, or we are still back to the old way for the win! Does this help?

  6. Rene is correct that Amex is very important to DAL, but that importance is declining. That is why spend on Amex generates only 1 point (2 on DAL spend, obviously), while DM spend now generates 11 points. DAL values your Amex spend enough to give you 1% back, while it now values your DM spend enough to give you 10%+ back (vs. maybe 3-4% before). For higher spenders, the new system is so much better and another step toward continuing to reward DAL’s true best customers. Consider another example: Rene spends $60K/year on his Amex, which yields DAL revenue of around 1.25% of that, or $750. That is obviously a tiny figure vs. anyone who spend any material $ on DAL. Having said that, there are millions of common folk like Rene, and only a fairly small number of people like Ryan who spend material dollars ($100K+/year) on DAL tickets (i.e. 360 crowd)

    • @Mark – You are looking at this all wrong and importance is increasing NOT declining. You are saying earning SkyMiles via DL spending is smart for you. Wrong. Anyone earning a ton of SkyMiles that way is simply spending too much with Delta. What I am saying, and the Q reports show this, the money Delta CORP makes from AMEX selling points is HUGE and way more profitable than flying.

      All you need to do is look at how many more perks one now gets each year from loyalty to AMEX and Delta combo to see my point.

  7. For me the new policy doesn’t change anything. Most GAs clear UGs at 40 minutes anyway.
    GAs hold all the cards. Connect with them. Give them a reason to help you. Show them the love. Give them a smile and peanut M + Ms or chocolate. Tell them to make it a great day.
    The real problem is Sheena. I have lost no-show seats to non-revs. But never after showing GAs the love.
    Long live #teamboardlast. It’s often the highlight of an entire trip. Even when it turns out to be #teamboardfughetaboutit!

  8. Rene,
    What if I fly a lot for business (and some for pleasure) and always purchase premium tickets in the normal course and spend around $10k/month on DAL? What if I choose to primarily fly DAL because of superior product/performance/network? Why would you think I would not be content enough to generate 1.3m miles/year, worth, at a minimum $13K and probably 3-4x that if used carefully.
    Amex, in the aggregate, is very important to Delta. However, in very round numbers, I would not be surprised if, in the aggregate, the top 1-5% of Delta spenders generate comparable profitability to DAL as the Amex contract. So DAL offers valuable benefits for the top 1%, and quasi-perks for Amex holders to make them feel good. Trust me, the perks for the 1% are better. And the perks for the 0.1% are better still. I don’t mean to be condescending, but that’s real world

    • @Mark – Since we don’t have full access to all those numbers it is much guessing. We do have access to the profitability from AMEX to $DAL and the sold perks Delta gives to those who spend much on DL co-branded AMEX cards. If anyone wants to spend 10k a month with Delta good for them. I would suggested they buy the tickets on another card than Delta AMEX cards for better value however 😉

  9. “suggested they buy the tickets on another card than Delta AMEX cards for better value however” —> I agree! (And that helps prove my point.)

  10. I still do not understand why anyone chooses to upgrade to C+. Is it for ego? Or is it because they cannot make it through a flight without free alcohol (dont get me started on the negative health related effects of alcohol and flying).
    I always select exit rows as a lowly silver and have a much better experience than the one time I chose C+. Often times the middle exit row goes unfilled if the flight isnt sold out, whereas the C+ rows are always full with desperate Medallions wanting an upgrade to pad their stats. I understand if you bought last minute and cant get an exit row but still I think coach aisle/window is far better than C+ middle

  11. Allowing an earlier push for UGs is great.

    As for asking about UGs before boarding, I give you my last two encounters:
    A: Last week an ATL GA was pi$$y at asking when they were going to push AFTER they called for boarding SKY. Ummmm, it’s your job!!!

    B: ATL to DAB my wife was #1 with 0 seats in 1st. Asked about waiting or boarding and was told she should board and they would come get her. Then, a pilot sat next to me in 1st LONG before the door closed. To say I was POd is an understatement and after I called the GA over (in front of the pilot) and asked about it, she said she never told my wife to board and they can’t move someone after they’ve boarded. Ummmmm, LIAR!!!

    Unfortunately, SHEENA is alive and well! Hopefully this will help reduce these instances of GAs being full of it. #NoStriveForFive

    • @Dr. John – I too have caught GAs in lies red handed so that is why I say we shall see if long term TeamBoardLast is dead or still the game to play! Thanks for your comment.

  12. Isaac Pollak Reply

    Been Diamond or Platinum almost since the beginning of the program
    Never had a problem using Global Upgrades 70% of the time
    in 2017 in 12 flights not a single success including out of the way places
    Dhaka to NY, Yerevan to NY and so forth
    tried 24 hours before flight and tried 9 months but no success-waiting list not successful 100% of the time
    is Comfort level the new upgrade???
    Isaac Pollak

    • @Isaac – I have only missed a few upgrades this year. Have used all but 1 of my RU successfully and all my GUs year after year including this year.

  13. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    Tickled pink about #TeamBoardLast, especially on MD88/90 flights. To me, the best aspect is moving the cut-off time to purchase a first-class ticket to 40 minutes prior to scheduled departure. I have no idea how much revenue the mothership will sacrifice with the change but it pleases me no end.

    As a side note, you were correct to hold these items for their own Friday spot on the blog. It’s a big update!

  14. I agree with Ryan. Delta should get rid of the MQD waiver for DM. DM should only be the top customers with spend.

    • @Evan – Not. Gonna. Happen. $DAL values AMEX too much and more each day!

  15. As a GM who feel from PM this year I have mixed emotions. Two of my last three upgrades have been as a member of #TeamBoardLast. Good changes overall but a personal hit this year.

  16. dotti cahill Reply

    hope we can end team board last as i always have my roller bag(i do not check luggage) my hubby and i got up-not graded to the 2 C-middle seats in the middle row of 4 LUCK us!!!!

  17. This is true. We will be able to move our seats back after an upgrade. So exciting!

  18. Guess I’m one of the few that appreciates C+, window please…mostly because I fly a lot with pets, and that extra space gives me a bit more comfort…that’s the reason. And yes, I just purchased C+ from PEK-SEA so I would have more room, since as a Silver this year, no way I’m getting anything up front.

  19. Hey @Rene-
    When we reach Diamond status, we were thinking of gifting status to a family member. This person flies JNB to MSP a couple of times a year. Would status get them an upgrade on international flights?

    • @Val – Doubtfully. If oversold in coach they will upgrade DM & PM 1st. But Gold will get them Skyclub access departing and connecting in any cabin of service.

  20. Morris Belemans Reply

    Fly first class and enjoy the american hustle. Onward and downward!

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